Bengaluru: The comedian Anuvab Pal often remarks that it was always much more fun to agree with his gullible foreign friends when they ask, wide-eyed, if elephants walk the streets in India, (yes, we also have magic carpets) or if we know the meaning of a 'birthday' (Anuvab says no). India is the land of snake charmers, mystics, religion, yoga and the Rope Trick – or was, until quite recently, when things began to change. And when they did, it happened quickly.
Nitin Pai, co-founder of Takshashila, moderated a session titled ‘Outside Looking In: Eyes on India', which, as the name suggests, is a take on how foreigners see the Indian story. Alex Traveli of The Economist, Alyssa Ayres from the Council on Foreign Relations, author James Crabtree, journalist Max Rodenbeck and Prasenjit Basu were the panelists.
Much is made of India's growing anti-Modi fervour and the saffron threat by national media but James Crabtree argues that this hasn't tainted the foreign impression of India, which is still largely positive. "India is more open to scrutiny than China, so journalists can understand India better."
Why is the Economist so hostile towards India, Pai demanded of Alex, who said, reflecting on the magazine's decision to support the Congress, "We thought it our responsibility to inform the Indian populace about the better choice."
Alyssa, who emphasised that her work consists of the US-India relationship, says India is seen as an ally now. "The US still views the world in verticals of Europe, Russia, Asia as China and Japan and the Middle East. Since India hasn't been a traditional ally, the focus hasn't been on the country much."...